THE LATEST FROM MIDSOUTH CONFERENCE FRIENDS IN OKC
It’s the first Sunday after the tragic tornado of 5/20/13 struck Newcastle and Moore, OK. It’s also the Sunday or Memorial Day weekend. When thinking of those who lost lost their lives in heroic service to our nation, as well as those who lost their lives in last Monday’s tornado, as well as the thousands of people who are heroically helping the relief effort (including hundreds of Covenanters), it seems like there is a sacrificial convergence going on today. Many of you have been asking how you can help. Here is an update:
Our OKC Covenant churches suffered significant losses from the storm. 1/4 of the fatalities from the tornado were connected with ECC churches (6 people out of 24 fatalities). Four children who died were connected with Life Church. Two adults who died were connected with Westmoore Community Church. Several more people connected from OKC Covenant churches were injured as a result of the storm. At last count around 100 homes of Covenant folks were totally destroyed by the storm. Several hundred more homes of Covenant folks were damaged. Almost all homes in south OKC lost power, phone, internet and gas connections. All Midsouth Covenant churches are giving significant leadership to the relief effort.
Here’s what’s going on as of today:
–Grace Covenant Church has been helping displaced families find shelter and care.
–Westmoore Covenant Church has opened their facility (and parking lot) for use by City Impact and World Vision to be a hub for volunteers, feeding people and dispensing supplies.
–Journey Covenant Church has opened their facility to be a gathering place for supplies coming in from all over the southern US, as well as deploying point for volunteers. The sheer volume of supplies and volunteers is amazing and daunting.
–Life Covenant Church is using their south OKC campus as a collection station for supplies and a deploying point for volunteers.
–Summit Covenant Church is collecting supplies and sending people. Because the need is so great, Summit has released Pastor Jay Stokes to be sort of “rover back” to give leadership where needed to all our OKC Covenant churches in their relief work.
-Our friends from OKC City Church are also helping with the relief effort.
I had the opportunity to visit OKC last Wednesday & Thursday. I stopped by Westmoore, Life and Journey to see the remarkable relief work they are doing. Each campus was a busy positive hub for relief workers and work. The pastoral leadership at each of those sites was amazing.
Several OKC Covenant churches had prayer vigils last Wednesday evening. I was able to attend the Candlelight Prayer Service at Westmoore, where several hundred people gathered to pray. It was powerful. Attending that particular service were many first-responders, as well as several heroic Moore school teachers who helped protect their children during the tornado. I was also able to have a personal visit with Paul Cunningham at home after his release from the Rehabilitation Hospital. It was so good to see him doing so well. He still has no feeling in his left side and will be sidelined for the next several months. We thank the Lord for Paul’s good recovery and pray for a full recovery in time.
Concern and support are coming in from ECC churches around the country. We are grateful for this generosity. We are in this rebuilding effort for the long haul, so the needs will continue for many months ahead. As debris is cleared and as plans develop we will be posting opportunities for Midsouth and ECC churches who want to send Mission Teams to OKC. We will keep you informed as opportunities emerge. Stay tuned…
Here’s a humbling example of the generous support that is coming into Covenant World Relief. The Hindustani Covenant Church in India sent $2,000 to CWR for tornado relief in OKC. This church has been dealing with the most severe drought in over 40 years, yet they gave sacrificially to help people they do not personally know half-way around the world. Why? Because we are in it together. This poor sister Covenant church is modeling Paul’s encouragement in 2 Corinthians 8: ” In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.”
Some of you have asked how you can encourage our OKC Covenant pastoral colleagues. Here are three immediate suggestions:
2. Give and invite your congregations to give $ to Covenant World Relief. You can give online on the Covenant website (www.covchurch.org), designating your giving as “OKC Tornado Relief.”
3. Email, text or snail mail notes of encouragement to our OKC pastoral friends. They are swamped right now so don’t expect any replies. Just sending them personal words of encouragement will be meaningful and empowering for them.
ECC President Gary Walter will be coming down to OKC in a few weeks to see the relief effort and to speak at Westmoore. Gary is the one who coined the phrase “In it together” as a description of what the Covenant looks like at its best. There is no time like the present to practice that powerful principle as we come alongside our OKC Covenant friends. Thanks again for your pastoral leadership where you are. It’s a privilege to in it together in the Midsouth Conference & ECC with you…
Garth Bolinder, Midsouth Conference Superintendent